Why Is “Normal” The Enemy?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how a “normal” life has been the “enemy” for so much of my life. I’m not sure exactly where I got the idea that working a 9-5, having a husband/kids/house/dog would be awful, but I lived a lot of my life craving adventure and something I was passionate for. Absolutely nothing else would do. While I still love adventure (and can’t live without passion, of course), I think I’m starting to realize that normal feels right for me right now. I’m craving stability, routine–like my puppy, Olive–and realizing this isn’t a bad thing.

I used to think normal and routine were boring. How dull and unfortunate those people were who led predictable lives. How sad not to have passion driving you to do everything you possibly can do in a short amount of time.

I don’t think that’s true anymore–or at least not in the same way I once thought it was. Having lived my 20s as one of those zealous, unpredictable people, I can tell you that the road to that much passion is paved with burnout–usually more than one burnout. For me it also involved a lot of moving and constant emotional upheaval when my passions changed or shifted (as they so often do). It wasn’t until recently, actually, that I was talking to some people (explaining this drive to constantly move and switch jobs and feel trapped in relationships) that one of them said “that sounds like a textbook case of adult ADD.” I was a bit stunned. I had never ever considered ADD as a possible reason I felt compelled to move around a lot and live on a whim and a passion.

As a group of us discussed it (and our possible ‘symptoms’) I realized there was a real possibility I had ADD. In fact, one of the group’s members shared a test you can take at home and I scored really really high on it, meaning I need to see a professional about it soon. My point is, sometimes being adventurous and passionate are amazing. Sometimes they can also come with the inability to focus, feelings of boredom or feeling trapped, not finishing projects, and sometimes instability. Sometimes the glory of adventure brings with it a lot of negative things, too.

ADD kind of makes sense for me. I’ve moved a lot. I get bored with jobs easily, especially when they’re not an intellectual challenge for me anymore or if I don’t feel I’m able to grow professionally within a company. But the most scary symptom happened to me recently and it’s what made me speak up about this pattern in the first place. I realized I had accomplished most of the things on my goal list for writing and I was starting to feel almost…bored. With my dream job. I panicked. Here I was at the most successful point in my professional life and I was starting to wonder what was next and I couldn’t find anything writing related to put on the list. The only thing I hadn’t accomplished was in-progress and going well and otherwise, there wasn’t anything left for me to try. The only thing that kept coming up on the list was to learn computer animation and start a web comic. That doesn’t mean those are bad dreams–it just meant that my whole identity was having a crisis because those aren’t writing-centric.

Writing has always been my identity and my savior. When I was a child, writing was the thing that drove me to dream. When I was depressed, writing was the thing that drove me out of bed. Writing hasn’t just been something I’ve done; it’s part of me. It’s been the thing I’ve defined myself as for years. When someone asks who I am, “I’m a writer” follows.

It still is part of me and my identity. In fact, I’ve been taking a social media break this past week to work on my writing projects. But before I considered I may have ADD, part of me was really sad that I might be getting bored with writing. Or at the very least, I wasn’t sure where else to go with my writing career. And that was very stressful.

Maybe more than that, what worries me is that my priorities are shifting. Money is now a priority for me. I’m 30 and the things that I used to consider “old people” priorities really are 30 year old priorities: houses, health insurance, 401Ks, savings plans, investments, big back yards, and vacations. It feels weird. Being in ministry meant that I was in debt, and then leaving ministry meant I was behind in earning my degree and figuring out how I wanted to make a living. Being a writer meant I could steal be an idealist, but it meant that I would be poor. I’m sorry, but I did the poor minister thing and I can’t do the poor writer thing.

I think that’s what some of this is about. For so long, “normal” (houses/health insurance/401Ks) meant that I was “settling” and I was “giving up.” The people who influenced me told me I couldn’t have “normal” things AND passion. I don’t look at it that way now. I know I haven’t given up. I’ve gotten a lot fucking smarter. I know that to finance my writing career, I need a “boring” 9-5 and some health insurance. And guess what? I have actually found a day job that pays well and makes me happy to go to work. But it’s not writing. That means I will be writing into my retirement years to get everything accomplished and that means that my day job will look pretty damn different from my night job as a writer, but after a great deal of soul searching and experimentation with “dream jobs”, I realized that I like money and stability. A lot. I like safety and safety nets. I like savings accounts and low amounts of debt. I never really realized that I would turn into what the 20 year old version of me despised and love it. But I did. And I’m okay with that.

fought to become

I love who I am, even if it looks boring to someone else. I don’t care what people think about my life’s choices, because I’ve learned that the secret to my happiness is stability. It’s to feel safe, to be prepared, to have a routine. It’s to be a bit normal. Sometimes that means wishing I could just write all day every day and instead having to go to a job that has nothing to do with writing, but I wouldn’t trade that stable feeling for anything. It’s my happiness.